Editor’s Choice

Emotions seem increasingly to mark political movements and discourse. Anger, fear and sadness have, to varying degrees, been implicated in the outcome of the Brexit referendum and the rise of Trump, on the one hand, and the persistence of Black Lives Matter and the impact of the Me Too movement, on the other. A philosophical tradition that stretches from Plato to Martha Nussbaum has urged us to keep negative emotions like anger and jealousy out of politics, and to instead nurture positive ones, like love and compassion. Yet, that must be confounding to minorities, the poor and other marginalized groups, whose political claims frequently originate in negative emotions and take the form of emotional expressions. Indeed, their marginalization and attendant suffering has been exacerbated by processes, such as medicalization, which prompt individuals to think of their anger, fear and other painful emotions as personal problems to be dealt with in the medical or some other ostensibly apolitical sphere. But not everyone believes negative emotions must be kept out of politics. Some feminists have long defended the political value of anger. And, more recently, such thinkers as Judith Butler and Deborah Gould have highlighted the politically empowering and constructive role that other negative emotions can play as well. Moreover, a series of methodological discussions on the importance of affect have brought the role of emotions in research into sharp focus. But whether these newer perspectives can survive the popular trend of blaming our contemporary political problems on passions like anger and fear remains to be seen.

This Editor’s Choice contains three pieces on the place of emotions in politics and means of harnessing those emotions methodologically and politically from the first two issues of volume 10. First, from 10:1 Graham Crow outlines a number of complications in advancing methods grounded in affect, in his ‘Collaborative research and the emotions of overstatement: four cautionary tales but no funeral’. Matt Flinders provides a substantive reply to Crow in ‘Collaborative Research and the Emotions of Overstatement’, arguing that the emotional implications of collaboration with non-academic partners and the value of that work needs much more fully to be understood and, often, appreciated. Finally, from 10:2-3, Karen Adkins‘ ‘“We will march side by side and demand a bigger table’: Anger as dignity claim’ deploys recent feminist perspectives on anger in politics to explain why Martha Nussbaum gets anger wrong. In the process, Adkins explores a range of practical issues, from mansplaining to rape victim impact statements, which will be of interest to a wide range of academic audiences.

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